Tuesday, February 18, 2020

LIFE IS WHAT HAPPENS when you’re making other plans...

Posted by: Dani Harper, Author
Normally I’m a fairly organized person. Since early last week I’ve been doing my darndest to keep “all the things” in the air. By Friday, though, I hit a wall. I was trying to assemble a post about faery portals and the magical use of water in particular, and it just would NOT come together.

I think it's because I need to write about water of another sort... 

"It started in low ... then it started to grow!"
Earlier this month, an unusual storm floated in from the Pacific, and simply parked over eastern Washington. Days of continuous rain annoyed the humans and irritated the chickens, but it would go away eventually, right? Not exactly. The real problem turned out to be the warm temperatures. Usually while we were getting rain, the Blue Mountains west of us would be getting snow. They weren’t. It rained there too, and a whole lotta snow melted.

On February 7th, a little trickle of water appeared at the edge of our front yard. Within an hour, our house was an island as a full-fledged river poured into our property on three sides, and exited via the fourth. We were incredibly thankful for the little bit of elevation that allowed the fast-moving water to part just enough to go around the house without coming in … because it was very apparent that we weren’t going anywhere. The roads and bridges leading out of our neighborhood were closed in all directions. The levees that had been built up over the years to reliably contain spring runoff and other highwater events had been breached.

One of the entry points of the river was behind the coop!
The speed of the flood shocked us. Our chickens had been caught off guard as well. They didn’t make it back to their coop before it, too, was an island. The flock ended up camped on our back deck, where they complained loudly every time they caught a glimpse of us. I had no way of telling them that we couldn't fix it!

Hubs and I watched out the windows as strange things traveled rapidly through our property: broken bales of straw, tires, fluorescent highway cones, and even a fifty-gallon drum and some railroad ties. (Our two dogs bravely barked at every one of them through the glass!) We have a chain link fence surrounding the place, so how such sizable items were getting in was a mystery.

Despite our island status, there were lots of things to be thankful for. The house stayed dry. The power stayed on. We had a camp stove, fuel, lanterns, batteries, and an emergency radio, all things we’d learned to keep on hand when we lived in Alaska. We had groceries plus enough prescriptions etc. to last us several days. The hardest part was going to bed the first night of the flood, not knowing if the water would get even higher when we weren’t looking. Needless to say, we stayed up late, didn’t sleep much and kept getting up to check.

Finally the rain stopped. The water slowed. Brave selfless people worked to restore or sandbag the levees. I ventured outside and took a couple of videos of our property. They're on my Facebook page, and these are the links (fingers crossed they work!)

The floodwaters receded faster than I expected. I wasn't expecting the alien landscape left behind. Everything is monotone brown due to a thick layer of mud. Swaths of gravel carried by the river now stand like glacial moraines. The rock from the side road that runs behind the chicken yard is now piled up under the chicken coop. Murky craters mark the places where the water hit the hardest. 

Meanwhile, every inch of chain link that the water passed through is now thickly woven with matted straw. In a few places, 2x4 boards are speared right through the fence, apparently for artistic effect. The ceramic gnome colony was decimated, with many individuals swept away to parts unknown. And I have a feeling that a lot of our perennial flowers will be coming up in very strange places this year…. 

Overall, though, WE'RE OKAY, and we're so very grateful for that. Save for the loss of one of our old white hens (R.I.P. Salty), our issues are largely cosmetic. It'll take us a long time to put everything to rights, but it's doable.

Eventually the waters began to recede...
BTW, we did finally learn the secret of how the extra-large debris “magically” passed through the chain link:  the river had simply chewed out the ground beneath the fencing and forcibly shoved the objects under! Some things remained piled up on our lawn. Others flowed into the front yard and left through the back yard, again forced underneath a fence to be left scattered over the properties behind us.

There’s even a soggy recliner sitting upright in the middle of a nearby field. That muddy chair reminds me every day to be thankful. We have neighbors a couple streets over who were not as fortunate as us, whose homes are full of water and mud, or pushed from their foundations. Some people in nearby communities had to be evacuated, others rescued from rooftops. It could so easily have been us.

It’s been said that every experience a writer has is material for a future story. So I’m sure the 2020 Flood will eventually turn up in one of my novels in some form or another. But the thing I want to write about most is not the disaster itself. 

Turns out the water wasn't nearly as powerful as sheer human resilience and compassion in action. Watching a community come together and spring into action to help others has been both a lesson and a privilege. Still, we were surprised when an army of volunteers came to OUR property today with shovels, equipment and gravel! The driveway had been left in muddy shambles, gouged and rearranged by the flood, but these wonderful strangers worked their magic to restore it. It restored our hearts too, in a world that has been far too divided of late.

These are things worth writing about.

:)  Sincerely, Dani Harper

YOUR TURN - I know that many of you have experienced floods, fires and other natural disasters, especially in recent years. How did you feel? How did you cope? What advice do you have for others?

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